Conventional wisdom is that Speaker Pelosi held the Articles of Impeachment to put pressure on the GOP to hold a real Impeachment Trial in the Senate. It further holds that perhaps she even expected a side benefit of new evidence turning up – and getting it further cements her reputation as a master political operator. However, I’ve come to believe she had another and more compelling reason to hang on to those Articles of Impeachment – to give Adam Schiff who I think we all figured would lead the team of House Managers time to prepare what we’ve been witnessing.
Right off the bat I have to confess I had some serious differences with the Speaker and her resistance to impeaching Trump. Those who have followed my political writings can find evidence of that. Whether or not she was enthusiastic about turning her Committee Chairs loose to go ahead last fall no longer matters. During this year and probably for all the history that will be written on current events the issues of whether Democrats waited too long (as in they should have moved once they had the Mueller report) or whether they should have included Mueller material (Obstruction of Justice) as one of the Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate. I can’t (at least yet) call it an actual Impeachment Trial but I guess we can all hope we have stuff like witnesses and document production before it’s all over.
I watched as much as I could yesterday although I had to turn in before all was said and done. However it was clear even during the day (and night) of procedural motions/amendment (to the organizing resolution) votes that Democrat’s strategy was to use every chance they could to actually present their case with what documentary evidence, testimony and even news stories and footage they could insert into the debate. From his opening statement on Tuesday Schiff knocked Trump’s lawyers back on their heels. It’s been suggested they were blindsided by how Schiff and other Democrats proceeded and simply weren’t prepared. I’m not sure that for most of them (mostly second rate and I’ve started to think even Cippolone is also second rate making Trump’s whole team that way) they’d have been able to seriously blunt the case Democrats made to the public (the real audience yesterday) but they clearly were outclassed from the get-go.
Today we’ve seen Democrats get deeper into details, and even though they are missing direct testimony from key players in the events in question as well as tons of records/documents the House Managers are doing Democrats proud. They have offered a steady stream of visual aids, both documentary and testimony from House hearings as well as TV footage to illustrate what they (the various House Managers) are saying from the podium. They’ve even got stuff from witnesses who refused to testify under oath or provide documents and the masterful way all that’s being weaved into the presentation AND being crossed referenced with other witnesses (who did testify) and documents is providing a form of testimony that is damned near impossible to refute. I have a feeling that once its Team Trump’s turn it will be more of what they did Tuesday – doing little if any to refute the House Manager’s case and instead complaining about process and generally whining. Kind of like their boss on the whining part btw.
Something else that’s struck me is that by starting to present actual evidence yesterday the House Managers have given themselves a chance at repetition which has two benefits. First, not everyone will be able to watch all, or even most of the proceedings. Repeating stuff ensures a larger number of people will see the evidence the House, in spite of all Trump’s obstruction has been able to assemble. The second is that some people, including Senators in the GOP will be hit again and again with facts they’d rather avoid. However the important part is that repetition allows information to sink in and “set” and even if Trump’s lawyers try to refute it, it will be more difficult. I also think, and am sure the House Managers and Democrats in general will hammer home the point that if Trump has people/documents that actually refute the House Manager’s case then have them show up and testify and provide the freaking documents!
IOW put up or shut up. If Trump refuses his team is effectively neutered. And the House Managers and other Democrats can continue to hammer home another point – that if Trump had evidence refuting the charges/clearing him we’d have seen it long ago. If he refuses to “put up” then common sense says he’s guilty as charged. THAT is something the average American understands. Let’s face it – for all the idealistic talk about the 5th Amendment and invoking it shouldn’t factor into deciding someone’s innocence or guilt the average person holds invoking it against those who do. That’s reality. It’s a reality that even registers with goobers out there that support Trump.
My sort of epiphany today is that Speaker Pelosi, even before the formal Articles were approved (as we all knew they would be) had talked with Schiff and Nadler, and being former prosecutors they probably noted that when a criminal indictment is handed down the actual trial never starts right away. However, putting together the kinds of presentations we’ve seen so far and will surely continue to see takes time and a ton of work by both staff and those tasked with presenting various parts of the case. Is there anyone reading this who thinks the House Managers didn’t put that extra time to good use? Just like criminal prosecutors use the time between an indictment and a trial to prepare and even bolster their case & how best to present it to a jury.
Here’s a question that kind of blows my mind. Did the Speaker (and Schiff and Nadler) fake out McConnell and the GOP? After all the Speaker in particular is as hard-nosed and savvy a political operator as we’ve ever seen. She knows how the machinery works, and having grown up in hard-nosed politics knows all too well that it’s crucial to understand what the power you wield can and probably can’t achieve. I think Pelosi knows all too well McConnell doesn’t give a rat’s ass about norms, traditions or fairness. The only thing he’s worried about is navigating the balancing act of keeping Trump happy and preserving the GOP Majority in the Senate. I think it’s quite possible the Speaker didn’t really expect much (if anything) in the way of concessions to fairness from McConnell during the time she held on to the Articles of Impeachment. However she had to know it would eat up many a news cycle. And that while Trump, McConnell, the GOP and perhaps most importantly the media who can’t resist focusing on arguments/conflict would be distracted while the lawyers on the Committee staffs worked with the actual Members who would become Managers to dig out every document and piece of video with testimony or talking to the press that reinforced every bit of the House’s case.
While the GOP was beating up on the Speaker the REAL action was taking place behind the scenes. IOW I have come to the conclusion that Speaker Pelosi, and Schiff & Nadler (Schumer might not have even been made aware of it) decided to pull a “Rope-A-Dope” and the results are a sight to behold. I have no illusions it will result in a conviction in the Senate, and little hope it will force witness testimony and document production although it’s at least possible and public pressure might be too much for just enough GOP Senators.
The important thing is that it was a fair assumption McConnell would rig the trial to get it over with and out of the news as quickly as possible. The delay in formally handing over the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate bought precious time for the House Managers to make a case to the American people about just how corrupt, and just how much GOP elected officials have sold out to Trumpism. Trump might have sky high popularity in the GOP but the GOP has continued to shrink. It’s now the third largest political Party/group as there are both more Democrats and more Independents. The trend since Trump took Office has been unmistakable – the GOP has been bleeding and we spilled their guts onto the ground in 2018. Again I see little chance Trump will be removed once the Senate votes on the Articles of Impeachment, but some serious public opinion can be established and set in people’s minds long before general election voting starts.
Because the House Managers had time to prepare a kick-ass case that could be presented in terms that not only could everyday people/voters understand, but cause them to question WTF is wrong with any Senator that voted to acquit – or for that matter any House member that voted against the Articles of Impeachment.
Speaker Pelosi is I think even smarter and more politically savvy than everyone thought. Hell, it’s almost scary. I’ll bet it is to many a Republican right now!